Roma’s hot start leaves Michael Bradley behind; MLS expansion takes shape
Some insider nuggets from the soccer world:
• The hottest team in Europe is 8-0 Roma, the only team in any of Europe’s top leagues that still has a perfect record. Roma is owned by American James Pallotta, and I’ve learned Roma is currently trying to use its hot start to raise $150 million from a group of select U.S. investors in part to help build a new stadium for the team. In return, those investors would get a voice on the Roma board. Roma is trying to follow the Arsenal model by building a stadium to increase revenues and set a new example in Italy for sustainable growth.
• Speaking of Roma, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley has returned from injury, but Roma’s success and the purchase of Kevin Strootman have put Bradley in a reserve role this season. There have been questions regarding whether Bradley should pursue a January move to a different club to get playing time ahead of the World Cup, but as of right now I’m told: 1) Roma does not want to sell Bradley, and 2) Bradley does not want to move in January. He wants to fight and get a spot back in the starting lineup.
• MLS has already announced that it will add four new teams beyond New York City FC in 2015, and one MLS owner tells me it’s extremely likely that three of those four cities will be Orlando, Atlanta and Miami. Just today, MLS president Mark Abbott said MLS will add Orlando if a local stadium vote passes this week. Meanwhile, Atlanta would be able to use a new soccer-friendly NFL stadium like Seattle does.
As for Miami, the expectations are that David Beckham is still preparing to use his option to own an MLS team in a city that fits his brand. The only question is which potential investors Beckham will pair with: Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure, Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross or possibly the Qataris who own PSG.
• The U.S.’s Graham Zusi scored the goal that saved Mexico’s World Cup hopes last week in stoppage time against Panama, and Zusi told me it was one of the best and strangest weeks of his career. When he returned to Kansas City, a Spanish-language TV channel gave him a Saint Zusi portrait and dressed him up in a sombrero and Mexican gear. Zusi told me he’s gotten thousands of tweets from Mexican fans thanking him for scoring the goal.
“For a team that’s our biggest rival, it’s kind of surreal,” he said. But Zusi also made it clear that the U.S. was playing for itself and nobody else. They weren’t trying to do Mexico a favor.